Murphy Eager to Talk Lockout on Tailgate Tour

Even with the lockout, Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy said he wouldn't hesitate to talk to the players about the ongoing lockout. Murphy is being joined by Matt Flynn, Desmond Bishop and Josh Sitton on the five-day tour.

The NFL lockout supposedly forbids the players from talking with management. But that won't necessarily be the case during the Green Bay Packers' sixth annual Tailgate Tour.

The tour departed from Lambeau Field on Tuesday morning. Packers President Mark Murphy and current players Matt Flynn, Desmond Bishop and Josh Sitton will be on the bus for five days worth of charitable and community events.

Somewhat incredibly, Murphy didn't say there was a self-imposed gag order. Instead, he seemed excited for the opportunity to talk about the labor dispute that is bogged down in legal logistics and mired in almost a complete mistrust between the league and the players.

"I'm going to interact with the players and we'll have a good, open discussion," Murphy said while fielding a few questions from reporters. "I think obviously with my background, I've been a player and having worked for the union and being a player rep, I can talk a lot about the issues. I'm looking forward to it."

The NFLPA's president and chief executive officer, George Atallah, did not immediately respond for comment.

(Update: On Wednesday morning, NFLPA spokesman Carl Francis said, "We care not to comment at this time.")


Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy answers a few questions from reporters. Bill Huber/Packer Report

By contrast, the handshakes, pats on the back and laughter between the players and coach Mike McCarthy, general manager Ted Thompson, director of football operations Reggie McKenzie and offensive line coach James Campen — all of whom emerged from their Lambeau Field offices to bid the tourists farewell — seemed innocent.

"That was a little awkward, to be honest with you," Sitton said. "I haven't seen him since the Super Bowl and we haven't been able to talk to him for 50-some days now, I guess. It was a little bit awkward. I didn't know the protocol. It was a little bit weird but it's all good."

The tour was bound for Marquette, Mich., for a Tuesday night tailgate party, with similar stops set for Ashland on Wednesday night, Eau Claire on Thursday night, Wausau on Friday night and Green Bay on Saturday night. All told, the bus will cover approximately 730 miles and be on the road for 13.5 hours. That's a lot of time to talk about the most pressing issue in the sport.

"I'm sure it'll come up with Mark Murphy on the bus," Bishop said. "We can't talk about too much, but I'm sure it'll come up. Everybody's talking about it — the entire world is talking about it. So I'm sure it'll come up."

Even with the lockout, the Tailgate Tour was permitted by the league because of its community-minded mission. Along with the nightly tailgate parties, which benefit a charity based in the host community, the bus will stop at several schools along the way.

Along with Murphy and the three current players, former Super Bowl heroes Jim Taylor, Forrest Gregg, Antonio Freeman, Dorsey Levens and Gilbert Brown are making the trip.

"I don't think it will be awkward at all," Murphy said. "I'm really looking forward to it. I miss the players and being able to spend some time with them will be great. This is really going to be unique in terms of the tour. For our players to be able to interact with some of the former great Packer players, I think is really going to be fun. I'm sure we'll have some discussions about the current labor situation, but I think everybody realizes that this is kind of above us all."

Flynn, who said he gets his lockout news from ESPN instead of the decertified union's leadership, didn't think it would be odd sleeping with the enemy, so to speak.

"Nah, it's not going to be weird," Flynn said. "This week is for the right reasons and for a good cause. That's why we came up here and we're excited about that."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.

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